Event Planning Ain't For the Faint of Heart
Kathleen has spent the last decade planning and executing major events in the nonprofit and for-profit space. Her ability to be agile, gregarious, and accessible are traits that have allowed her to thrive in the event planning industry. ⠀
How do you identify as?
I identify as a Puerto Rican Woman.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I am the Founder of The Tower Consulting, LLC a full-service event management company. I am also the Chief Experience Officer at Dávila Kafe. I’m a first-generation college graduate. My parents immigrated from Puerto Rico to the East Coast where I grew up in a single parent, low income household. And despite growing up in these circumstances, education has always been the primary focus for me. So, I knew that as long as I was went to school and did my best, I could make a better situation for myself and that’s pretty much been my mantra my whole life.
What led you to your current job?
It’s funny because when I graduated college, I felt like I had a degree that didn't really mean much in the real world so I took the first job that I could get, which happened to be in marketing and events. This was only supposed to be a temporary job because I had studied pre-law psychology. I saw it as a steppingstone kind of a job, until I could find a career that I thought would be my passion. But shortly after I took that job, I realized that I had the skillset to do well in the event planning industry. I’ve been doing this now for nine years and it's been an incredible experience to be able to discover a passion that wasn’t so obvious to me at first but has allowed me to grow it into a career.
What skills did you acquire that have helped you to be successful in your career?
Here's my three C's for success: courage, compassion, and communication.
Being a good communicator is a pretty transferable skill, no matter what industry you're in because there aren’t many jobs out there that are completely siloed. You have to work with other people to some capacity and regardless of what you're doing with your tasks or projects, you still have to be able to communicate with several stakeholders.
Compassion. As you go through your career there will be several ups and downs so having compassion for others and you is necessary for this marathon. A lot of times we are hard on ourselves and others because we made a mistake at work or failed at a project, but this is all inevitable and necessary to grow within your career.
Courage. Being able to stick to your convictions, regardless of what is happening around you is actually hard to do in practice. In order to get through this fear, you need to push yourself on a daily basis whether it’s with your job, your family or friends. Too often, we are afraid to rock the boat at work because we’re anxious of what our boss or colleagues will say or think about us. But you can’t live your life worried about what others will think about you.
What is a piece of work-related advice that somebody has given you that you feel is misguided?
It's not a popular opinion. I think one misconception people have about work is that if your current job does not reflect your passion then you should immediately quit and pursue that passion no matter what.
There needs to be a new narrative that explains that whatever your current job is it is not a determinate of what you are of what you will become in the future. It’s okay if the job you currently have isn’t where you want to be. You can pursue what you want to do on the side and still feel a sense of fulfillment career wise.
As a woman of color, what is a valuable lesson you can offer other women of color who are interested in becoming an event planner?
Always try to connect and network with people outside your circle because it's not just your inner circle who knows people. And this goes back to my earlier point about having courage and not being afraid to put yourself out there. When I first started out doing event planning, I tried to figure things out on my own.
Talk to your networks, friends, family, colleagues, etc. about your pursuits because you never know who’s already in the industry you’re working in or knows how to point you in the right direction instead of trying to figure it all out on your own.
What is the greatest barrier women of color face in the event planning industry?
Mentorship and access to it. I've had friends of mine, who reach out to me and say that someone they know is interested in event planning and if they can talk to me about it. I love that because I didn’t have that when I started out in my career. I had to navigate a lot on my own because there weren’t a lot people who I could look up to for mentorship. Not only that but once I got in the industry, I didn’t see a lot of people who looked like me. The field is predominantly dominated by white men.
Can you share with us a time when you decided to take care of your mental, physical, and/or emotional health at work? What tips or tricks can you share with our community that has helped you recharge?
After spending six years in the nonprofit sector, I was seeking a different type of industry experience because I wanted to branch out and try something new. So, I decided to step into the corporate sector, which was very different. And it’s funny because once I made this transition, I thought I had finally landed my dream job but that wasn’t the case. I ended up compromising a lot of important things like my mental health. It was definitely a difficult decision when I decided that I needed to leave that job, but I realized shortly after that it just wasn’t worth my sanity and overall well-being. This was definitely a growing moment for me because I realized that if you have things outside of your job that aren’t aligned then it will definitely affect the way you show up to work.